Monday, February 27, 2012

My relaxed chat with the Deputy Mayor of Colombo - Mr Titus Perera

I just so happened to be sitting next to the Deputy Mayor yesterday at a softball cricket match where young people from the CMC were playing. We spoke about many topics and I note below some of them just to put our thinking caps going on how we can improve the services of the CMC in Colombo.

I noted that Government own properties within the CMC limits which include Temple Trees and President’s House, to say nothing of the thousands of buildings that house departments. He is in the process of getting a full accounting of how much is owed in rates for those properties, and it currently exceeds Rs2Billion. There must be some kind of agreement for a market forces based rating system, so that a fair rate is paid for them as they use the services of the CMC. They are in conflict with the UDA about property that is not CMC, but nevertheless within CMC limits. It must be noted that schools and places of worship are exempt from rates, which is a huge added burden on the ratepayers and most of the students who come to the schools come from outside CMC and therefore are not ratepayers. Similarly many who come into the city to the places of worship also live outside.

Another topic was the hundreds of thousands of people who come into the CMC daily though they live outside the CMC. As these people use the services of the CMC, and even throw or leave garbage in the CMC area, they contribute to the thousands of tons of garbage that is the responsibility of the CMC to have collected and disposed of. They pay no rate to the CMC for this burden.

We discussed the name boards and large advertising boards that give substantial revenue to the CMC. They must have some sort of accountability to ensure that the right amount of money is collected. It is important that the CMC is not shortchanged by under reporting and for example a bill board recording a much lower square area than actual, thereby depriving the CMC of revenue.

We spoke about parking charges to reduce congestion, and ensure that people who use spaces within the CMC to park in busy areas, to pay a parking fee. A suggestion for school vans to buy a monthly or annual season ticket for their parking which is now free. It is only a matter of time when this becomes not only fair but vital to ensure that there is some control over the haphazard and blockage these school vans make in the ability of smooth vehicular transport.

He mentioned that he is asking all departments to develop revenue generating options rather than rely on allocations for their essential activities.

It is essential to be able to have a good working relationship with the government as they can be bloody minded by withholding back rates on properties which they many choose to contest and thereby deprive the CMC of much needed revenue.

I expressed my desire in seeing more open spaces for the public like parks, and wished to see the 15 acre property by the Beira used as a park and not the huge buildings the govt. wants by selling the land to the highest bidder. I also expressed the desire to see the 33 acres of the Welikada Prison also to be given over to park land as people living cheek by jowl in the nearby Wattes will benefit from a lung of the city being there, rather than that too sold to private sector for building and further added congestion. I sincerely hope basic town planning rules will used in future evaluations to ensure that there are sufficient spaces in the city for parkland for the benefit of those who live in the increasingly crowded and congested city that have too few places for people to escape to.

I completely forgot to ask about the junket held at the Kandalama Hotel, and how that cost could be justified, based on a cost benefit analysis.

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